Auto Review: The lighter, smarter Range Rover Sport

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Jan. 16, 2014
- Contributed Photo

As the luxury side of Land Rover, the Range Rover name has long been revered, and these rugged all-terrain vehicles have won fans all over the world. The Range Rover has also been known for combining a luxurious interior with a surprisingly compliant ride (on road or off), all while maintaining the ability to handle even the most primitive off-road terrain. The Sport version has added more performance through more power and other enhancements, and for 2014 the Range Rover Sport has undergone a rather dramatic transformation to load it with class-leading engineering and materials use. This is primarily to increase overall ability and efficiency, but the luxurious side of the equation is also well represented.

What’s really amazing about this exclusive vehicle is how well it does everything, be it on the highway, twisty backroad, or a rugged trail up the side of a mountain. I piloted this vehicle not in my usual New England location, but instead at the North American press launch that was held in the heart of Silicon Valley outside of San Francisco. It was in this high-tech Mecca (with off-road driving on a stretch of private land covered with 1,000-year-old redwoods) where I got to experience how the engineers’ years of hard work has resulted in a rather amazing vehicle.

Nothing on the Range Rover Sport is commonplace, and every major component is a technological tour de force. There are four trim lines; two with a 3-liter Supercharged V6 engine that summons forth 340 horsepower and two with a 5-liter Supercharged V8 with a thunderous 510 horsepower. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic, and there are two All-Wheel Drive systems available, depending on model choice. As impressive as all this muscle is, what is truly innovative is the new unit body structure that is fabricated mostly of aluminum. I had thought that recent Range Rovers had completely abandoned body-on-frame construction for a unibody design, but I discovered this wasn’t exactly true. The engineers had created a “hybrid” style backbone that had both ladder-style and unit elements, to insure there was enough rigidity for punishing backroad work. But for 2014, the Range Rover Sport has a true unibody design that uses new aluminum fabrication techniques. It is incredibly stiff, and provides tremendous energy absorption in the event of a collision. The bottom line is a curb weight 800 pounds lighter than its predecessor, with even better on- and off-road performance.

Driving both Sports (the V6 and the V8) is a lesson in both on- and off-pavement dynamic response, and when coupled with the first-class interior appointments, there aren’t a whole lot of vehicles that can match its capabilities. It is quiet, exhilarating and pretty much unstoppable when the road ends, and I actually preferred the V6 over the V8 because it felt a hair more balanced overall to me, especially on the pavement, where it will likely spend most of its time.

The 2014 Range Rover Sport V6 is EPA rated 17 MPG city/23 highway and prices start at $63,495.

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